Okay. I admit it. Maybe -- just maybe -- the folks at Walt Disney Studios actually do know what they are doing.
Case in point: "Ratatouille." When this Brad Bird film only sold $47 million worth of tickets over its opening weekend (Which was at least 20% less than the $60 million that industry experts had originally expected this Pixar production to earn over its first three days in theaters) ... It was all too easy for someone like myself -- who trusts in numbers -- to dismiss this new animated feature as a critic's darling that was really struggling to connect with Pixar's usual audience.
Ah, but Chuck Viane -- head of Distribution at Walt Disney Studios -- warned me not to jump to conclusions when it came to "Ratatouille." He said that the Mouse had put an awful lot of thought into the proper positioning of its Rat movie.
"We actually picked our release date about a year ago," Viane explained. "We decided that opening 'Ratatouille' a week after "Evan Almighty' and a week before 'Transformers' would give this picture its very best shot at box office success. And -- as it turns out -- we were right."
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Indeed they were. During the first 10 days that this new Pixar film was in domestic release, "Ratatouille" earned $109.5 million. Which puts this Brad Bird film just a lap or two behind what "Cars" pulled in last year during its first 10 days in U.S. theaters.
Here. Maybe a chart will help illustrate the point that I'm trying to put across here.
So while "Ratatouille" 's opening weekend performance was admittedly less than stellar, this critically acclaimed animated feature quickly made up ground by pulling in some very impressive grosses over last week's extended Fourth of July holiday.
Mind you, Viane attributes "Ratatouille" 's strong performance last week not just to the rave reviews and/or the great word-of-mouth. But -- rather -- because last week's other big earners (i.e. 20th Century Fox's "Live Free or Die Hard" and Paramount / DreamWorks' "Transformers") weren't really in direct competion with this new Brad Bird film.
"We each had our own audiences. Bruce Willis fans turned out for 'Die Hard,' while teens went for 'Transformers.' Which meant that we pretty much had the family audience all to ourselves," Chuck continued. "Then when you factor in that every day is like a Saturday during the summer ... Well, I'm not honestly surprised that 'Ratatouille' did as well as it did."
Of course, the big test comes tomorrow with the release of Warners' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Which -- you'd think -- would have Viane worried. But again that's where you'd be wrong.
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"Look, I know that Harry Potter fans are very devoted. And I'm certain that those people are going to turn out in huge numbers to see 'Phoenix' this week" Viane said. "But that movie isn't going to have all that much impact on how our movie does. We're talking about two very different fan bases here. There's very little overlap between those two audiences. Which is why I think that 'Ratatouille' will continue to do well as we roll into Weekend No. 3."
Me? Again, I'm not entirely sure that I share Chuck's optimism. It would seem to me that "Ratatouille" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" would have to share an audience. At least a portion of the same audience. Which is why I'll really be interested in seeing by what percentage business for this new Pixar film falls off as it enters its third week in theaters.
I mean, let's be honest here, folks. If you look cold-bloodedly at what "Ratatouille" has earned over its first 10 days in domestic release, this Brad Bird film still lags well behind Pixar's top earners like "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles."
To be fair, when I mentioned this to Mr. Viane, the Head of Distribution at Walt Disney Studios said that he didn't feel that such comparisons were fair at all.
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"You can't really compare how a film that opens over the holidays does to the performance of a picture that opens in summer. Those are two entirely different box office seasons, each with their own unique challenges," Chuck stated. "Plus it's not fair to use 'Nemo' as the performance yardstick for all the Pixar films that followed it. That film was unique. As were all the Pixar movies that followed it."
Me? I'm a numbers guy. Which is why it's hard for me not to stack "The Incredibles" box office performance next to how "Cars" did last year, and then compare how "Ratatouille" has done to date to Pixar's most recent releases. And what I (along with many investment analysts) see there is a trend. The slow-but-steady erosion of how much a new Pixar release typically earns during its initial domestic release.
To hear Mr. Viane talk, there's no such thing as a typical Pixar picture. And as for "Ratatouille" 's domestic earnings ... Again to quote from Chuck:
"If by the end of this summer 'Ratatouille' hasn't earned at least as much as 'Cars,' I'm going to be very surprised."
"If by the end of this summer 'Ratatouille' hasn't earned at least as much as 'Cars,' I'm going to be very surprised."
What about you folks? Were you surprised by how well "Ratatouille" did over the extended Fourth of July holiday? More to the point, what do you think this Brad Bird film will have earned by the time it finishes its domestic run?
Your thoughts / predictions?
I think they're not intently trying to Pixarize Disney, but it will happen. John & Ed use Pixar as example of how things work smoothly (and it's a good example, per definition), but I think that just doesn't work on all studios. Pixar has something special that connects all dots, and Disney has lost track in the past but has different dots, different connections and has a different "something special" (or had).
"Disney hasn't been Disney for some time". True, but Disney will never be the old Disney again. I've giving up all hope of that, it just isn't possible. But they can be a modern, different Disney, based upon the same principles of creativity, quality and entertainment. The same they'll never be again.
Hmmm, "Walt Disney Animation Studios" just doesn't get my attention. Maybe I have been too familiar with "Walt Disney Feature Animation" for too long, but to me that name reflects more elegance. Just a feeling. And also, don't like it when every time a new management enters, the name of a company (or division) has to change. (And it is too similar to "Pixar Animation Studios", I guess.)
BrerArtist ....re: my post..."Lasseter, Catmull and company, fired, shut down and cleaned out anything and everything related to the "old guard" "
You wrote..."Aparrently they didn't get everybody."
Yes, that's right...you found me out. I'm holed-up in the tip of Mickey's Hat...I scamper down late at night, leave nasty little anti-Pixar Post-Its......then rearrange things on Catmull's desk, just to piss him off. Seriously, not sure what you're reading in to my posts, but I'm a huge fan of Pixar and their films..would be surprised and disappointed if they lost any traction...I just don't take the whole thing quite as seriously as most of you, who get all lathered-up over Jim's articles...he actually knows more than most give him credit for. Lets face it, it's an internet site about Disney... fun, non life threating, family entertainment ...you want to read crazy ramblings go over to IMDB message boards...your head will explode. But, I do admit I get a kick out of some of the knee-jerk reactions to Jim...reminds me of a room full of republicans, when you mention the name Bill Clinton...no middle ground, here. Cheers!
Harry made 44 million its opening day, including 12 million from midnite tuesday. That's a wednesday record, and top five opening days.
The other numbers from yesterday are yet to be announced. I'm very curious how Ratatouille did.
And minutes later, the other numbers are available.
Ratatouille made 3.9 million, a drop of 5.6% from the previous day. That's a damn good hold on the same day another kids movie set an opening day record.
Do people still seriously think that Ratatouille will fall off a cliff just because Potter is showing down the hall?
Heck, I'm surprised nobody has mentioned when Monsters Inc was out and they made a custom trailer that even mentioned Harry Potter and joked about being out at the same time. Neither of those films really suffered from overlapping release, did they?
Minderbinder: where do you get these numbers? I've been trying to find a reliable (and quick source) for boxoffice results, but I can only find boxofficemojo and boxofficeguru - any suggestions?
Without Pixar's influence Disney would've flushed itself right down the loo. Just look at their output over the last decade--steaming piles of dreck-to-video that are only hurting their image (tho it's hugely profitable!), animated features of continually declining quality, and a few hits that were dismissed during development as mistakes ("Emperor's New Groove" and "Pirates") or back-burner projects ("Lilo & Stitch"). Yet when they proved to be hits after all, the properties were then significantly diminished by the desperate need to squeeze even more cash out of them.
I loved Disney films and the theme parks with boundless joy...up until ten years ago. Since then, both have gone considerably downhill. The insatiable need to link every ride at the parks to a character--any character!--is ruining the place, yet nobody seemed to think at the time that attractions which lasted more than 40 years without any sort of character tie-in, thank you very much, might actually be diminished by hanging an faddish albatross around their neck.
Please, Mister Iger, give us back the Disney we once loved. But if you can't do it, then maybe Mister Lasseter can.
I got the full numbers from boxofficemojo, it's the most detailed site I know of and seems widely trusted. The 44 million number was reported pretty widely in a number of sources earlier today (such as variety, etc). They don't have the wednesday numbers linked from the front page yet, but they are up (or at least the ones we care about).
Ah, thanks minderbinder, I thought it was pretty late in the day for not having the numbers up yet. Never thought to check that.
empoor - Okay, I guess we are all in agreement that this direction is much better than the one Disney was going in before.
I guess where we differ the most is you think John and Ed are trying to "Pixarize" Disney, whereas I believe John and Ed "Disneyfied" Pixar in the first place and are just trying to "Re-Disneyfy" the animation studios.
As for John not being able to give 100% to Disney, I have to disagree. Remember that Pixar is already part of Disney - and if Disney suffers, Pixar suffers. If Lasseter lets Disney produce movies that bombed at the box office and lost the company money, that means less money for Pixar as well. It's in his best interest to have ALL of Disney do well.
In fact, I'd have to think Pixar is missing out on Lasseter and Catmull more since they used to have them 100% full time before the merger and now they don't.
As for the corporate culture, I don't think that is on Lasseter and Catmull - that is all on Iger, who I attribute most of Disney's success now. The guy is sharp, he knows who the best people are to put in charge, he knows how to empower people (not just in WD animation but the rest of the company as well), and he is not a glory hound. If he didn't like the Pixar folk shooing away all the suits from the creatives, he could have stepped in stopped it. Heck, if he didn't want to give Pixar the power they have w/in the company now, he wouldn't have made the deal. But I admire that Iger is willing to take the risks needed to move the company forward.
And yes, WDAS will find their own culture eventually. I think they're already moving in that direction. Frog Princess and Rapunzel are definitely not Pixar flicks and both look like they have potential to be instant classics.
It's an exciting time. I wouldn't worry about Pixar vs WDAS now; don't pay attention to the numbers or the debbie downers. It's all in good hands.
I had read some where that with marketing and production ratatouille came to be around the 200 mil mark. So they're going to want to make more then that to turn a profit. Plus all the extra over head costs of distribution. Icky icky icky.
But the comparison of this movie to Pixar's highest grossest films are unjust, imo. It would be like expecting every Amblim Entertainment involved project to be a uber box office block buster.
Though I will say that Nemo's huge success was probably a stroke of luck.
CB, if you include costs of distribution and marketing, most similar movies cost even more than that. Shrek 3 cost 160M just for production. Generally if a movie can make it's production budget back domestically, it is considered profitable for that studio.
What was your source on that number? Even including marketing, that seems high (especially since advertising is way lighter than most movies).
Okay, as of today, it is estimated that $121,674,427 has been raked in over Ratatouille, Brad Bird's brilliant film. Considering you were acting that it wouldn't even TOUCH Cars... over 139 million including foreign.
that is GOING UP against Transformers AND the great Harry Potter. I hate to break it to you Jim, but I really feel you're coming down hard on Pixar here. Before I tried to see that you're looking at this realistically, you know, business wise, the movie didn't start off great, but now with this article, it feels you have a want to Pixar to fail.
Iger and the new crew at Pixar are running Disney wonderfully. I want Disney to be what it once was, not what it was in the late 90's, early 2000's. Not many films withstand the onslaught of summer features. Hell, people thought Die Hard would crush Ratatouille due to an already built in audience from previous films, or would actually fail all together. But look at it, Ratouille beats it every damned day according to box office mojo. For a film that is supposedly horrible and the bane of Pixar by Disney's standards, I don't remember a Disney film honestly doing this well repeatedly in a high flux of films in a very crowded summer season that was not doing numbers like "Nemo" or "Incredibles".
I come to your site, not to read the articles but to scope out information, and do a little digging myself. I am an animation student, with my heart set on Pixar and every time you bash them... it gets more and more old.
Sure, perhaps John and Ed aren't bureaucratic enough to make people happy, but they are CHANGING how the company works. While money crunching is important, ingenuity in what is ultimately an art form is more important. And that's where Ratatouille makes its stand. Here's a movie that A) doesn't have a damsel in distress, B) doesn't have the characters singing, or C) making fun of the first two options which is seriously getting old. It uses an interesting storyline with some fun and engaging characters and the design and style is magnificent.
I am surrounded by people inside of the industry and yes, some were wary of the rat, thinking this would be the weakest Pixar movie, but they were proved wrong. Word of mouth is changing the view on this story and more people are going to see it when before they had already made up their minds not to. Pixar is dedicated to releasing quality movies and engaging and new ideas. Maybe sometimes the storyline doesn't mesh exactly, but hey, look what they're up against.
Please, compare Pixar movies to the other animated movies available and none of them compare. Sure, Shrek does well while in theatres, but the jokes they make are now so stale that i don't understand their reasoning behind creating a fourth (well, i do; money. Sadly, quality has gone out of the window and the colours are terribly desaturated and the people... shudder. Pixar is the only studio who can create humans that do not frighten me).
All I can say is that I am an animation intern and i dont make very much money... but i see every movie i wanted to see. Which included harry potter, transformers AND Ratatouille.
Wow... I typed a lot.
Kadianimate...If you want a Pixar Party, start you own site...because, as you will soon learn, there is a great big world out there and not all will feed you the "happy thoughts" you so desire. There are a lot more creative people working in your business, besides those at Pixar (a great company), who deserve an open mind...Good luck to you...but, you will be better served...and have a longer and more rewarding career, if you recoginize the great talent that makes up the film/animation industry. Everyone has the right to an opinion...and if you discount those who don't jump on your band wagon, you will be settting yourself up for a lot of disapointment. Cheers.
"Kadianimate...If you want a Pixar Party, start you own site..."
Straw man. Nobody is asking for mindless sunshine. Just a realistic take instead of the incessant bashing. The only "band wagon" here is putting negative spin on movies that have done very well. Sure, everyone has a right to an opinion, but when an opinion is as wrong as the negative spin about Ratatouille has been, it certainly should discounted. Looking at your posts, you certainly come off as someone with an axe to grind and nothing useful to say.
Jim said Ratatouille would tank when Transformers came out. He was wrong. He said it would tank when Potter came out. It's still very early, but preliminary numbers look like he's wrong about that as well.
Bobby, when things this wrong get posted, you don't think people should speak up and disagree? Are you really living in such a fantasy world?
This movie is on a pace to easily beat every other non-Pixar, non-Shrek CGI animated movie. And you think that those thinking that's a bad thing are the ones with an open mind?